By Becky Harling, Crosswalk.com
All around us, anxiety is on the rise. With rising inflation, a host of new viruses in addition to lingering Covid cases, RSV and flu, and increasing violence, the average person has much to feel anxious about. I read a recent article that said there has been a 25% increase in anxiety just since the pandemic. I’m no stranger to anxiety, so I understand.
While feeling anxious is not a sin, God’s desire is for us to tame our anxiety and embrace His peace. This is why the Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). Paul’s point was, rather than allowing anxiety to rule in your heart, respond to every anxious situation with prayer and thanksgiving. As you faithfully do this, the peace of Christ will guard your hearts against being overwhelmed with worry.
As we face the New Year, many feel more anxiety and nervousness. None of us know what the new year will bring. Uncertainty breeds more anxiety. If you are prone to worry, you might be spinning possible scenarios in your mind as you read this. There’s little we can control about how the New Year plays out. However, though there is much we can’t control, we can control the choices we make in response to those circumstances. As you face the New Year, I have a few suggestions for possible resolutions you might make. Resolutions are merely decisions we make in advance. These are not big, glorious goals; they are practical steps you can take in the New Year to calm your anxious heart.
Here are five New Year’s resolutions for the anxious heart:
1. Get A Physical Annually
I know. None of us like going to the doctor. However, we are a combination of body, soul, and spirit. If our bodies are not functioning properly, our minds won’t function properly. So make it a pattern in your life to go for an annual physical. If you are wrestling with anxiety, discuss it with your doctor. See if the doctor feels you need medical help to manage the stress you are facing. If your doctor suggests an anti-anxiety medicine, please take it because anxiety can be chemical rather than circumstantial.
2. Exercise Faithfully
Exercise releases endorphins and helps us to pour our stress into something productive. According to a study conducted by Harvard Health, aerobic exercise is particularly helpful for those who deal with anxiety. Invest in a gym membership or buy an elliptical machine or treadmill and get moving. If you can’t afford those options, a great one is to take your exercise outside. Take a hike or go for a walk. The outdoors is refreshing and invigorating. So, if possible, get outside.
Friend, as you exercise, you will release endorphins in your brain. Those are “feel good” chemicals that help moderate your mood. So, while it may feel daunting to start, set it as a goal. As you continue to be faithful, you’ll see the benefits.
3. Encourage Others Regularly
One of the best practices you can put into place in the New Year is to encourage other people intentionally. Scripture teaches us to “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today” (Hebrews 3:13). There is a dual benefit to encouraging others. First, you lift someone else’s spirits and help them to feel valued. Secondly, you receive a boomerang effect from encouraging another person. Your own spirits are lifted, and you yourself feel a renewed sense of purpose.
4. Praise God and Give Thanks Habitually
The Psalmist wrote, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought be joy” (Psalm 94:19). In another Psalm, he writes, “Because your love is better than life my lips will glorify you” (Psalm 63:3). The Hebrew word for 'glorify' that’s used there carries a dual meaning. On the one hand, it means lifting up or praising, but on the other hand, it means soothing or calming. As we praise God, His Holy Spirit calms and soothes our hearts.
As you enter the new year, make it a pattern in your life to praise God moment by moment throughout your day. As soon as the first anxious thought comes, begin praising God for His amazing love and faithfulness. I guarantee you’ll wrestle a bit less with anxiety.
5. Pray the Lord’s Prayer Daily
If you’ve been raised in the church, you likely know the Lord’s prayer. Even if you weren’t raised in a faith community, you’ve likely heard it somewhere. In case you haven’t, the traditional words are:
Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
They kingdom come,
They will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day
Our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses
Even as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil,
For thine is the kingdom and the power
And the glory forever.
The prayer is based on how Jesus taught His disciples to pray in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4. What I love about praying the Lord’s prayer daily is it has a beautiful rhythm that makes it easy to remember, and the prayer includes six beautiful invitations given to us by Jesus. It covers all the basics of life; our relationship with God, our relationships with others, our needs, our protection, and how to forgive. Learning to pray it daily can help quiet your anxiety.
Between Christmas and New Year’s Day, why don’t you take a day of personal reflection and prayer? Consider how each of these resolutions might empower you to live more victoriously over anxiety. The truth is, anxiety isn’t going to vanish completely any time soon. Our world is growing increasingly violent and caustic to the message of the gospel. However, by taking these very practical steps, you will be able to live a more calm and peaceful life. Anxiety won’t rule over you. Instead, the Prince of Peace will rule in your heart and mind.
Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, I long to live free from the burden of anxiety, yet, it is such a challenge. Holy Spirit, show me what is my part to tame this monster and what is your part in calming my soul. As I stand on the brink of 2023, show me how to cooperate with you in the process of living peacefully. I praise You that as I faithfully cooperate by getting physical exercising, encouraging others, praising You, and praying the Lord’s prayer, You will allow me to experience the peace that goes beyond understanding.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/simonapilolla
Authentic. Passionate. Funny and Biblical all describe Becky Harling. A best-selling author, Becky is a popular speaker at conferences, retreats, and other events. She is the author of 11 books, including Psalms for the Anxious Heart, How to Listen so Your Kids Will Talk, and The Extraordinary Power of Praise. Her newest Bible study, Our Father, comes out this Spring. Becky is a certified coach with the John Maxwell Team and a seasoned Bible teacher. You can connect with Becky at www.beckyharling.com, www.harlingleadership.com, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/beckyharlingministries, Twitter, @beckyharling, or on Instagram at Becky Harling